임꺽정 (Im Kkeokjeong)

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44 Episodes
An SBS Production
Timeslot: Saturday and Sunday Evening, 09:50 PM
Genre: Sageuk
Format: 480i Dolby Digital 2.0 – 45 Minutes
Runs from: 1996/Nov/10~1997/Apr/06

WITH 정흥채 (Jung Heung-Chae) as Im Kkeokjeong; 차광수 (Cha Gwang-Soo) as Lee Bong-Hak; 정규수 (Jung Gyu-Soo) as Park Gyu-Bok; 문용민 (Moon Yong-Min) as Kwak Oh-Joo; 이기영 (Lee Gi-Young) as Bae Dol-Seok; 손호균 (Son Ho-Gyun) as Gil Mak-Bong; 김홍표 (Kim Hong-Pyo) as Hwang Cheonwangdong; 임현식 (Im Hyun-Shik) as Mr. Oh; 이정길 (Lee Jung-Gil) as Yang Ju-Pal; 국수호 (Guk Soo-Ho) as Seo Gyeong-Deok; 김원희 (Kim Won-Hee) as Hwang Un-Chong; 정준 (Jung Joon) as Im Baek-Son; 박선영 (Park Sun-Young) as Jung Nan-Jung; 박인환 (Park In-Hwan) as Im Dol; 최주봉 (Choi Ju-Bong) as Han On; 김흥기 (Kim Heung-Gi) as Nam Chi-Geun; 전무송 (Jeon Mu-Song) as Seo Rim; 윤유선 (Yoon Yoo-Seon) as Seop-Seop; 김병세 (Kim Byung-Se) as Minister Lee; 전주헌 (Jeon Ju-Heon) as Palsakdong; 송채환 (Song Chae-Hwan) as Sohong; 윤문식 (Yoon Moon-Shik) as Noh Bam; 김주영 (Kim Joo-Young) as Kim Ryun; 정진 (Jung Jin) as Jang Nabi; 유인촌 (Yoo In-Chon) as Yeonsan; 이효정 (Lee Hyo-Jung) as Myeongjong; 김청 (Kim Cheong) as Queen Munjeong; 김학철 (Kim Hak-Cheol) as Bou; 박근형 (Park Geun-Hyung) as Yoon Won-Hyung; 전인택 (Jeon In-Taek) as Fake Im Kkeokjeong; 나성균 (Na Seong-Gyun) as Choi; 고두심 (Go Doo-Shim) as Un-Chong's Mother; 안연홍 (Ahn Yeon-Hong) as Gap;

CREW Production Director 김한영 (Kim Han-Young) Main Writer 김원석 (Kim Won-Seok) 유동윤 (Yoo Dong-Yoon) Music 장사익 (Jang Sa-Ik)

AGB Nielsen Nationwide
HIGHEST: 32.7%
LOWEST: 24.5%
AVERAGE: 29.47%

Photo ⓒ SBS


The tragic story of low-class butcher-turned-hero of the people Im Kkeokjeong, leading an uprising against the rampant corruption of the Joseon court.


Like a perverse (virtuous!) circle, it seems like every 10 years or so the sageuk genre is completely reinvented by something that changes the playing field. While it’s no secret that the 1980s were dominated by Lee Byung-Hoon and Shin Bong-Seung with their landmark franchise 조선왕조 500년 (500 Years of Joseon) and that the 2000s were pretty much defined by the final swan song of a dying genre (in its three most significant renditions, from fusion to political and even hybrids) through 신돈 (Shin Don), 한성별곡-正 (Conspiracy in the Court) and 정조암살미스터리 8일 (Eight Days), it’s a little trickier to choose one potential candidate from the 1990s. One could say 1996′s 용의 눈물 (Tears of the Dragon), the apotheosis of the political sageuk canon, one of the few sageuk past the 100 episodes able to maintain a strong narrative flow from start to finish, please the hardcore history buffs, and even titillate the mainstream’s whims with incredible acting by Kim Mu-Saeng (as an unforgettable Lee Seong-Gye) and Yoo Dong-Geun, along with enough pathos to make Shakespeare proud. Lee Byung-Hoon’s 허준 (Hur Joon) is another good candidate, for rejuvenating a moribund genre by essentially dressing up trendy dramas as sageuk, and making them more accessible for everyone – although his nearly demential fall from grace in the last half decade has just about erased three decades of consecutive accolades with every new show he helms.

But no, the right choice is 임꺽정 (Im Kkeokjeong), a forgotten masterpiece from 1996 which was doing what now is considered commonplace in the sageuk canon, back when nobody was not even thinking about it. Wonder whether Hur Joon was the first to really take advantage of outdoor shoots, instead of the usual stuffy sets inside which old men with fake mustaches were screaming at each other? Im Kkeokjeong was there already, in 1996. How about the movie-like cinematography and top notch action-direction which made 추노 (Slave Hunters) such a treat to watch? Although there were no Red One cameras to benefit from back then, Im Kkeokjeong pretty much embarrasses every sageuk produced today when it comes to visual luster, choice of music (with a genial soundtrack by Gang San-E), action choreography and last but not least acting, no surprise considering the impressive cast (from super veterans like Na Moon-Hee and Yoon Yeo-Jung to the unknown commodity who almost became a star thanks to this show, Jung Heung-Chae).

Telling the real-life story of baekjeong (the lowest caste in Joseon society, mostly butchers and executioners)-turned-Korea’s own Robin Hood Im Kkeokjeong, the show mixes clever historical commentary along with a grass roots approach to storytelling that is both accessible (a lot more than most sageuk, actually, which explains the average 26-27% the show was getting back then, for a while even beating Tears of the Dragon itself) but also strangely compelling, taking advantage of its literary roots (Hong Myung-Hee’s classic novel from the 20s). Im Kkeokjeong was one of the very first Korean dramas to essentially complete all its shoot before broadcast (the final half dozen episodes were shot later, technically speaking), and it certainly shows, not only in terms of visuals, but also in the assured, novel-like approach to storytelling.

It’s 14 years old, but it feels like it was shot yesterday, while at the same time respecting the foundations of what made this genre great.

Originally Published on WithS2 - 2011/05/05


90 유인촌 (Yoo In-Chon)
88 김흥기 (Kim Heung-Gi)
87 송채환 (Song Chae-Hwan)
87 정진 (Jung Jin)
85 정흥채 (Jung Heung-Chae)
84 박근형 (Park Geun-Hyung)
81 이정길 (Lee Jung-Gil)
80 최주봉 (Choi Ju-Bong)
80 이기영 (Lee Gi-Young)
79 전무송 (Jeon Mu-Song)
78 고두심 (Go Doo-Shim)
78 윤유선 (Yoon Yoo-Seon)
77 김원희 (Kim Won-Hee)
75 임현식 (Im Hyun-Shik)
74 정규수 (Jung Gyu-Soo)
74 전인택 (Jeon In-Taek)
73 김홍표 (Kim Hong-Pyo)
73 김청 (Kim Cheong)
72 차광수 (Cha Gwang-Soo)
72 박인환 (Park In-Hwan)
71 김병세 (Kim Byung-Se)
71 이효정 (Lee Hyo-Jung)
70 손호균 (Son Ho-Gyun)
70 전주헌 (Jeon Ju-Heon)
70 김주영 (Kim Joo-Young)
69 나성균 (Na Seong-Gyun)
68 김학철 (Kim Hak-Cheol)
66 안연홍 (Ahn Yeon-Hong)
65 국수호 (Guk Soo-Ho)
64 윤문식 (Yoon Moon-Shik)
63 문용민 (Moon Yong-Min)
62 정준 (Jung Joon)
60 박선영 (Park Sun-Young)

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